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Myanmar is opening its doors to the world, revealing a people still tied to ancient traditions and a country bursting with cultural treasures. The combination is a photographer's dream come true. In the company of a National Geographic photographer, capture images of monks and artisans, lively markets and sparkling temples. Set out on sunset photo cruises by long-tail boat or teak riverboat, photographing everyday life. Enjoy rare opportunities to document prayer ceremonies and traditional musicians at play. Catch the sunrise on the stupa-studded plains of Bagan, and photograph fishermen poling past the floating gardens of Inle Lake.
Set out on a sunrise photo shoot in Bagan from the vantage of a temple terrace.
Document a candle-lighting ceremony at Yangon's glittering Shwedagon Pagoda and focus on monks at prayer in Mandalay.
Capture the action and exhilaration of a leg-rowers' boat race on Inle Lake.
Photograph weavers, goldsmiths, and lacquer artisans plying their ancient crafts.
Itinerary - 13 Days
Days 1, 2, & 3 — U.S./Mandalay, Myanmar
Depart the U.S., cross the international date line, and arrive in Mandalay on Day 3. Transfer to our hotel and meet for a welcome dinner tonight. Mandalar Resort (D)
Day 4 — Mandalay
Glide along the Irrawaddy River today, capturing scenes of daily life along the riverbanks. Stop in Sagaing for a chance to photograph the gleaming white and gold pagodas that dot the hillside, and take panoramic shots of the view from Sunoo Ponya Shin Pagoda. Work on portraiture during a visit to a convent and a community school before we continue upriver to Inwa. Here, hop into horse-carts to visit Nan Myint Tower, Menu Ok-kyaung Monastery, and the teak Bagaya Monastery. Enjoy lunch on board as we sail to Mingun, home to a massive, unfinished pagoda. Gather with our photographer on deck for a sunset photo shoot as we cruise back to Mandalay. Mandalar Resort (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Mandalay
Rise early to witness the morning face-washing ceremony of the Mahamuni Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Mandalay. Focus on the carvings of the Shwenandaw Monastery and the 729 chiseled marble slabs of Kuthodaw Pagoda, and go on a special photo shoot at Shwekyin Monastery to document monks at prayer. Frame views of Mandalay and its moat from atop the city walls and then head to a gold-leaf workshop to photograph artisans plying their craft. After lunch, visit the home of a local artist to see his collection of old paintings and tapestries. Travel to the 18th-century capital of Amarapura for a sunset photo walk across U Bein Bridge, a teak structure that spans nearly 4,000 feet, or ride in a canoe on Taungthaman Lake below for a different perspective. Mandalar Resort (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Mandalay/Bagan
Board a teak riverboat for a leisurely float downstream to Bagan. Review your images with your fellow travelers and listen to a talk on technique by our National Geographic photographer. Photograph an artist on board as he demonstrates the local tradition of painting with a blade. Stroll through the riverside village of Yandabo with your camera to catch potters spinning and sculpting clay pots. Arrive in Bagan this evening. The Hotel at Tharabar Gate (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Bagan
During the 11th and 12th centuries, over 10,000 temples and monasteries were built on the Bagan plain. Today, more than 2,200 of these structures—from tiny stupas to towering temples—still dot the landscape. Rise early for a sunrise shoot of this picturesque plain from the vantage of a temple terrace. Then examine 13th-century murals at Gubyaukgyi Temple, and stop to photograph craftspeople at a lacquerware workshop. Ride a horse-cart to Ananda Temple, home to four great, gilded Buddha statues, and meet with an archaeologist at the site. Continue to Htilominlo Temple and then climb into a long-tail boat for a photography cruise at sunset. At a special dinner this evening, work on motion and panning techniques during a traditional dance performance at a temple lit by thousands of oil lamps. The Hotel at Tharabar Gate (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Bagan
Capture Bagan from an aerial perspective during an optional sunrise hot air balloon ride. After breakfast, attend a novice initiation ceremony for children preparing to become monks. Enjoy a talk on Theravada Buddhism by a local monk and visit a village school. Later, fill your lens with the vibrant colors and wares of the Nyaung U market. Frame gold-plated Shwezigon Pagoda, Bagan's greatest reliquary, and pay a visit to a toddy palm farm to record how local palm wine is made. Return to Bagan via Minanthu village to catch the sunset on its temples. The Hotel at Tharabar Gate (B,L)
Day 9 — Heho/Inle Lake
Fly to Heho and travel overland to Inle Lake, visiting Shweyanpyay Monastery and Nyaung Shwe village along the way. Enjoy an afternoon on the lake, photographing floating villages and pagodas on shore and capturing the unique sight of fishermen poling their skiffs with one leg. Inle Princess Resort or Villa Inle Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Inle Lake
Spend the day exploring the lake, from lush floating gardens to lively lakeside markets. At the Phaung Daw U Pagoda, zoom in on five Buddha images so smothered in gold leaf that they have lost all trace of their original forms. Take a Shan cooking class or photograph artisans at work at a silk weaving workshop before lunch in a floating house. Enjoy an exhilarating photographic opportunity this afternoon: documenting a typical leg-rowers' boat race. Later, examine hundreds of Shan-style stupas in Inndein, and visit Ngaphechaung Monastery, perched over the water on stilts and teak planks. Inle Princess Resort or Villa Inle Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Yangon
Fly to Yangon this morning and set out to discover Myanmar's former capital. Play with depth-of-field and perspective on a visit to a colossal reclining Buddha that stretches more than 200 feet at Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, dwarfing its worshippers, and examine royal artifacts at the National Museum. Then encounter the glittering stupas of Shwedagon Pagoda, a soaring, gold-gilded temple tipped with more than 4,500 diamonds. Enjoy a chance to photograph local families and pilgrims strolling and socializing beneath this extraordinary temple before a photo shoot at a lamp-lighting ceremony. The Strand Yangon (B,L,D)
Day 12 — Yangon
Begin the day at Botahtaung Pagoda, an unusual hollow stupa filled with hundreds of Buddha statues. Then venture into Old Rangoon, capturing the atmosphere in this fascinating time capsule where British colonial buildings stand alongside Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Hindu sites. Wander through Mahabandoola Park and browse local handicrafts at the Bogyoke Market. Then meet with monks on a visit to the Kalaywa Tawya Monastery and School Project. After a final sunset photo cruise, toast our journey at a festive farewell dinner tonight. The Strand Yangon (B,L,D)
Day 13 — Yangon/U.S.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
This is a moderately active trip with numerous village and temple visits that require walking over uneven terrain, boarding local boats, and climbing stairs in often hot and humid conditions. We will frequently be required to remove socks and shoes to enter religious sites. Travelers should be in good health and physically fit.